I wanted to make the most of my summer after sophomore year of college, and thought it would be a great opportunity to travel and start learning a new language. I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn about a different culture and I knew it would be valuable for me as a finance student as the business world was becoming more global every day. And I ended up choosing a 7-week intensive language program in Brazil given the strong and welcoming culture, a large and growing economy, and it didn’t hurt that it was on an island filled with beaches.
I initially started learning before the program using a popular online language learning program. It was a helpful introduction into basic vocabulary, pronunciation, and common everyday phrases. But it really was only an introduction, and I hoped the intensive program would take me to the next level, being able to have conversations.
The intensive program was great and the daily classes all in Portuguese started to train my ear and I was forced to think and respond in Portuguese. Not the easiest thing to do at first, but I could tell that it was working and there were numerous opportunities outside the classroom to continue practicing as most people on the island didn’t speak English. I loved the experience and was surprised at how quickly I was learning. I still knew I had a long way to go, but at this point I was hooked. Speaking a foreign language wasn’t impossible as it may have seemed in the beginning and now, I was determined to increase my fluency beyond basic everyday conversation.
When I got back to college, I enrolled in a Portuguese class and was planning right away to go back to Brazil for a full semester. The class at my college was helpful and there was more reading, writing, and a focus on grammar. This was complementary to what I had learned over the summer and provided a strong framework to use the language in a more robust way. I knew this preparation would be invaluable as I planned to do a semester exchange with normal college classes only in Portuguese. This was really going to push me out of my comfort zone, and I knew it would be the best way to push me toward my goals.
I arrived in Brazil, back in Florianopolis, where this journey had started 8 months ago. At first, it was a bit scary as there were no crutches and no easy way out, it was all Portuguese, all the time. After the first month passed, I was a lot more comfortable as I was engaged with the language constantly: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Once again, I was learning extremely quickly but there were still areas I wanted to improve. I wanted to improve my vocabulary so that I could express myself more deeply, while continuing to refine my grammar. The best way to do this for me was to hire a tutor, and it really paid off. We would meet for 2 hours a week, and our sessions were always engaging. It was more than just grammar homework as during our session we would talk and go through magazines in my areas of interest, such as economics or Brazilian culture. That kept things fun, and it is definitely easier to learn when it is tailored to your interests.
Over the next few months, I continued to improve my language skills inside and outside the classroom. Making friends and practicing outside the classroom was a great way to improve my speaking skills, learn slang and expressions, and truly get a feeling for the Brazilian people and their culture. As my time came to an end, it was sad to leave. Not only had I survived in a foreign language, but I was starting to thrive. I had accomplished my goal to significantly increase my fluency and exceeded my own expectations. Looking back, it is tough to say what the most important thing was for helping me learning the language. I feel like it was a combination of everything: classroom learning, being immersed in the language, having a tutor, and speaking with friends outside the classroom. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, and I’m very grateful that I learned a new language, as it opened a door into a new world and culture.
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Portuguese Adjectives speaking practice on Speakable[/caption]
Take your Portuguese learning journey to the next level by loosen up your tongue with these free Speaking activities: